Jon Stewart ‘A Shifty Tool Of The Obama Administration,’ Media Critic Claims

Given the revelation that Jon Stewart secretly met with President Obama at the White House at least twice, long-time Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawick argues that The Daily Show host let himself be used to advance a liberal agenda and in so doing, undermined his credibility as an irreverent truth-teller.

Generally a middle-of-the-road journalist in terms of politics, Zurawik strongly criticized Stewart — who to much hoopla is ending his run on the Comedy Central program this coming Thursday – on Media Buzz, the Sunday morning FNC show hosted by Howard Kurtz, formerly of the Washington Post, CNN, and other news outlets.

Zurawik has written that he had been a big fan of Stewart’s impressive cultural legacy, but the under-the-radar confabs with Obama have put what amounts to an asterisk on that legacy.

The FiveThirtyEight blog asserted earlier this year that The Daily Show never pulled in huge ratings and had limited television appeal despite the disproportionate coverage in the New York-Washington media echo chamber, although many of Stewart’s bits got important secondary viewing on YouTube and other social media platforms.

Stewart’s point of view exerted significant influence on millennials, the White House believed, this according to the New York Times, which apparently led to the one-on-one sit downs with the president.

Although most of The Daily Show mockery was typically directed at Republicans and conservatives, Stewart occasionally would diss Democrats, and he would also ridicule other cable news networks in addition to Fox News, his main target.

In an exchange with Kurtz, Zurawik registered strong disagreement with Jon Stewart’s private Oval Office huddles with Obama.

“I’ve been writing a long time about Jon Stewart serving an ideology…since President Obama came in, he has become more and more and more a tool, really, of the Obama administration … if you serve a politician’s ideological agenda, you are a propagandist. And that’s what [Stewart is] doing. These meetings matter tremendously.”

Zurawik also chided Stewart for framing the revelations about the Obama secret meetings as another aspect of his ongoing feud with Fox, even though it was also reported in the New York Times (and Politico).

“…But the New York Times was just as hard on him in [its] own way. They use the word secretive. They drew the connection between what was going on in the president’s agenda and his visit; he didn’t attack them…he doesn’t want Times coming at him and the Times and him share a base, and that worries him. I mean honest, that’s in a way how shifty — shifty is probably the nicest word I can use for Stewart; because he’s so smart he gets away with it.”

In a companion Sun column today, Zurawik – who nonetheless maintains that Jon Stewart is a more important cultural figure than iconic Tonight Show host Johnny Carson — offered some additional analysis against the backdrop of the secret White House meetings.

“…Stewart is not an honest broker of humor and information — political or otherwise. He savages his enemies and protects his friends … Had he been more evenhanded in his takedowns and transparent in his relationship with the political figures he regularly critiqued, most critics would now be judging him strictly in cultural terms rather than partisan ones populating the Internet this past week. And he wouldn’t need two nights to defend himself on his show, as he did in his penultimate week.”

Added New York Post columnist Kyle Smith about Jon Stewart being summoned to the White House for private sessions with Obama, “Remember when, under a Republican president, it was the duty of all comedians to be the loyal opposition, to speak truth to power? Stewart does the opposite. He’s more like a referee who sneaks into the Patriots’ locker room to ask Tom Brady how much he wants his footballs deflated.”

Globe and Mail columnist Konrad Yakabuski had similar thoughts about the Stewart-Obama scenario. “During his 16-year stint at The Daily Show, [Stewart] morphed from an earnest but impartial comedian railing against the polarization and phoniness of American politics and cable news into a funnyman-activist who skewered only one-half of the political spectrum. He became what he once denounced. He could still be incisive and funny. But his rants became increasingly self-righteous and contemptuous toward anyone who didn’t share his elite liberal world view.”

Do you think the Zurawik criticism of Jon Stewart as a propaganda tool or fanboy of the Obama administration is well taken or too harsh? Do you believe that Jon Stewart’s approach to political issues on The Daily Show was evenhanded?

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